Administrative staff in the judiciary protest again against small salaries
More than 11,000 administrative staff working in the judiciary in Serbia receive salaries ranging from RSD 16,000 to 20,000. They have seen no increase since 2006. Despite the plan to increase the salaries of judicial employees through judicial reform and the establishment of the new network of courts, this has not materialized. Forum sources stress that the salary system should serve as an incentive to stop the drain of trained staff. Sladjanka Miloševic, Secretary of the Republic Committee of Trade Union employees in the judiciary that organized a very successful protest in the majority of Serbian courts on Monday, says for Forum that the introduction of a new IT program on the one hand, and the reduction of staff on the other, resulted in an increased workload.
Incentives must be provided for the staff. The base salaries of administrative staff in the judiciary are only 20% of that of judges and prosecutors, while the salaries of trial judges are 30%, even though this is an additional income for them. The health and education sectors have been prioritized since 2006, while the salaries in the justice administration were frozen, Milosevic notes. The only solution, according to our sources is equalizing the basic salaries of administrative staff in the judiciary and those of judicial staff at RSD 28,000.
Several protests occurred in the past due to low salaries. Earlier this month, only urgent court cases were tried – detention cases in the Criminal Court, and family cases, temporary suspensions, labor and housing issues, and protection of property cases in the Civil Court - due to a general strike in 34 basic courts, 21 higher courts and 34 basic prosecutor’s courts.
Dragana Boljevic, the Chairperson of the Association of Judges of Serbia states for Forum that the low salaries of administrative staff in the judiciary may lead to a reduction in the number of qualified and trained employees.
- Their job is exacting and highly confidential. Their problems cannot be dealt with in isolation; they were in a much worse position than judges and prosecutors. Government representatives need to recognize that the courts cannot function without them. According to Ms Boljevic, the judiciary has suffered layoffs twice in recent years: in 2007 and 2009, when more than 1,000 employees opted for a social programme.
Government short of money?
At the Ministry of Justice we were told they are aware of the problems faced by employees in the judiciary administration due to low salaries, but that the Government does not have the money for an increase. According to the Ministry of Justice, the demand by trade unions to increase basic salaries to RSD 28,000 would mean an increase of RSD 5.3 billion to the salary fund. At the same time, the annual revenue from court taxes is less than RSD 5 billion.